Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal and Canadian Black Scientists Network launch Canada-wide survey

Mount Saint Vincent University Biology Professor Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal (centre, top row above) is part of a research team that has recently launched a new Canada-wide study on the experiences of Black students and trainees in Canadian STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine) fields.

“This study connects my work in the removal of barriers facing those traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields with the knowledge, expertise and lived experiences of a leading team of national collaborators,” says Dr. Franz-Odendaal. “Ultimately, this study aims to support institutional change and increase the numbers of Black students, trainees, and professors in these science-based fields,”

Existing literature shows that factors contributing to the lack of diversity in STEMM include lack of effective mentors, experiences of biases and microaggressions, whiteness and patriarchal culture of STEMM, and lack of institutional support structures to foster retention and success. Additionally, existing research in higher education has found that racialized professors are not only underrepresented, but also have lower wage earnings and prestige than their white colleagues. More Canadian research is needed to paint a more detailed picture of how institutional systems are reproducing inequities for young Black scholars.

The study will feature a survey which will gather demographic data and ask Black students about their experiences in STEMM fields. At the end of the survey, participants can opt to participate in an interview. The purpose of the interviews is to learn more about participants’ experiences in STEMM and gain insight into the nuances of the quantitative data collected.

This research is supported by Dr Franz-Odendaal’s NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering.

Principal investigators include:

  • Dr. Franz-Odendaal, Lead Ally and co-founder of the Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN); and
  • Dr. Jennifer Adams, Tier II Canada Research Chair in Creativity & STEM and Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Calgary. Dr. Adams has conducted extensive research on equity in STEM with an emphasis on BIPOC learners.

Other members of the research team include CBSN co-founders:

  • Dr. Loydie A. Jerome-Majewska, Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill University;
  • Dr. Juliet Daniel, Professor in the Department of Biology and Associate Dean of Research and External Relations at McMaster University; and
  • Dr. Maydianne Andrade, Tier II Canada Research Chair in Integrative Behavioral Ecology, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Co-Chair of the Toronto Initiative for Diversity and Excellence. Dr Andrade is also the current President of the CBSN.

The lived experiences of Drs. Adams, Jerome-Majewska, Daniel, and Andrade as Black scholars in STEMM in Canada will inform the research instruments, data analysis and applications of this research. The team is supported by research assistant, Drew Burchell.

“Even when looking for demographics about percentages of students from different racialized groups in STEM majors, it does not exist,” says Adams. “At best, students are all lumped into a ‘visible minority’ category, which is problematic on many levels. Mainly it does not account for the nuances of underrepresentation amongst the different racialized and minoritized groups.” Dr. Adams explains that once systemic barriers specific to Canada are identified, we must work to dismantle them. This requires placing the emphasis on transforming STEMM cultures to welcome, retain and celebrate diverse students.

The results of this study will provide much needed data on the experiences of Black trainees in Canada within the STEMM fields. Participate in the survey of Black student experiences in STEMM.

Pictured above

Top row (l-r): Dr. Jennifer Adams, Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal, and Dr. Maydianne Andrade
Bottom row (l-r): Dr. Loydie A. Jerome-Majewska, Dr. Juliet Daniel and Drew Burchell